Reviews (chronological)

See also reviews by artist.

Fragility and Strength

There’s a paradoxical tension at work in the best of slow, quiet music. While appearing faint and fragile, it maintains resilience through the integrity of its structure, each element supporting

John White 88 at Round Chapel

Last Sunday an afternoon of concerts was held at the Round Chapel in Clapton to commemorate what would have been the 88th birthday of composer John White. White, who died

Gabriel Vicéns: Mural

Gabriel Vicéns is a new name to me, despite not being the first record he has out. A quick look through his back catalogue explains why: originating from Puerto Rico,

Frey; Frey; Frey?

I’m back from vacation and so can’t justify travelling to Huddersfield this year, where a day is being given over to celebrate Jürg Frey’s 70th birthday. Having heard plenty of

Nomi Epstein: cubes

What little I’ve heard of Nomi Epstein’s music has been made from apparently simple structures that define certain parameters of the sounds to be used at any given time, but

Two Types of Jürg Frey

Jürg Frey just turned seventy, which might mark a time to take stock of his work so far. It seems to describe a process of steady development, gradually transforming without

Freitag aus Licht in Paris

Stockhausen’s grand Licht cycle of cosmic mediaeval mystery plays get hardest to follow when he’s trying to explain what it all means. At their best, the theosophical tableaux he presents

Greg Davis: New Primes

There’s something pleasing and aspirational in the idea of making music out of nothing but pure sine waves; even moreso when employing principles of the mathematics of tuning as purely

Richard Emsley: Still/s

“It’s like looking at someone with short hair. We could tell if that person had long hair in the sixties and now has short hair, as opposed to the guy

Tom Johnson: Combinations

As Wittgenstein would often remind you, the simplest statements, when exposed to close examination, conceal a wealth of contradictions and absurdities. Several years ago I heard a chamber ensemble play

Evan Johnson: lists, little stars

Evan Johnson’s music is hard to hear. Does everyone say that about him? While other composers may reward your closer attention, Johnson just seems to compound your uncertainty. Are you

Mattin Licking Ears

Listen: Mattin is doing something to his audience, individually and collectively. What that something might be is not immediately clear, but after a while you start to get an idea.

Sam Salem’s London Triptych

Given that composing, playing and listening to a piece of music are distinct and unrelated acts (per Cage), then what can one hear in Sam Salem’s London Triptych? The three

Ferran Fages: Electronics

I think it’s safe to call Ferran Fages eclectic. These two reissues from 2010 are works for electronics, different from the sparse works for guitar and piano previously reviewed here.

Eventless Plot: Anisixia

Collective composer Eventless Plot is made up of Vasilis Liolios, Aris Giatas and Yiannis Tsirikoglou, using objects and instruments combined with live electronics. They jointly produce performance scores for themselves

Takuroku Springtime Speedrun

One year into global pandemic conditions and we’re all getting a bit jaded as lives settle into a routine of reduced dimensions. Cafe Oto’s Takuroku series has become a musical

Josten Myburgh: Sculthorpe Studies

One of the most exquisite items of late 20th Century kitsch is Bird Symphony, an album by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation featuring various Australian orchestras playing popular classics by Fauré,

(no title)

I’ve been listening to a lot of new stuff over winter, making some notes, as well as working on my own projects, but right at the moment I’m at a

Kraig Grady: Monument Of Diamonds

Here’s a rare and welcome chance to experience a major work by Kraig Grady, courtesy of Another Timbre. Like so many who are dedicated to exploring alternative tuning systems, Grady

Alvin Lucier on Black Truffle

As well as releasing lots of fine music by new composers, Black Truffle has been preserving the legacy of the old masters. In particular, they have been steadily releasing recent

Eventless Plot: Parallel Words

Beats me how people find these things, but I’m glad that they do. Eventless Plot is Vasilis Liolios, Yiannis Tsirikoglou and Aris Giatas, a trio of musicians in Thessaloniki. The

Sam Ridout: Aspect Spur Disjecta

Over the weekend, someone on a popular social media site shared the following video, titled “Tree branch falls on power lines – high voltage – Wicked Effect”. The first reply

Takuroku Shooting Gallery

Takuroku put out a batch of cool new stuff each week and I want to do them justice but I’m lazy. Will get more detailed on some of them later

Apartment House plays Jim O’Rourke

Jim O’Rourke’s music for small string ensembles (with electronics). I’ve been waiting for this one; an intriguing and almost unknown aspect of his music, brought to light by Apartment House.

Five years of 840

The year has started. Two gigs this weekend just gone, both at Cafe Oto. The 840 series celebrated their fifth anniversary on Friday with an evening of music for voices

Jennifer Walshe: ALL THE MANY PEOPLS

Jennifer Walshe makes computer music. Her voice remains at the centre of things, free of electronic modification but shaped and conditioned by present-day information technology. The most essentially human and

Federico Pozzer: Breaths

Been listening to this repeatedly over the past couple of months but not writing about it; just enjoying it*. Don’t know anything about composer Federico Pozzer, other than what comes

Pancrace: The Fluid Hammer

Lot of excitement over the first Pancrace album that came out in 2017. The follow-up by the French quintet is not so much a departure as starting over in a

Charles Ross at Cafe Oto

You really need to see it as well as hear it; not just the visual element, but to appreciate the music as a theatrical experience. Until now, my exposure to

Oren Ambarchi at 50

A three-day weekend at Cafe Oto: less a showcase of Ambarchi’s talents, more a swag of really cool birthday presents. Here’s a quick trip round the bits that stuck in

Julius Eastman: Femenine

From time to time, the legend of Julius Eastman – tragic decline, obscurity, posthumous elevation to musical martyrdom – threatens to overshadow his achievements. He hasn’t quite attained the bedroom

Things Seen, Heard (3)

Two gigs in churches in my neighbourhood this month. Áine O’Dwyer and Eva-Maria Houben at the Old Church in Stoke Newington. Primary reason for going was that I’d enjoyed hearing

Michael Parsons at 80

A small bright spot, then another week of flu. I can still recall enough of that previous Friday evening with gladness, the ambience of bonhomie that filled Cafe Oto for

Mattin: Songbook #7

I presume there is nothing unique about me associating Mattin with provocation. Thinking over it, every one of those provocative actions that I can remember was made in good faith.

Ingrid Plum: Taut

I got sent a digital version of the latest release from Graham Dunning’s Fractal Meat label: a book and CD of vocal compositions commissioned by Ingrid Plum. (Not sure if

A Portrait of Frank Denyer

An all-too-rare chance last weekend to hear live music by Frank Denyer, an English composer treated like a guilty secret in his home country. Not that a gala evening at

John Cage: Two²

Great art takes time and, as Cage observed in his Lecture on Something, art should not be something that comes from within, but that goes within. Being fond of the

Glenn Branca

After a while, all that remains is the music. Heard last night that Glenn Branca died. After what I said a couple of weeks ago about there always being something

MP Hopkins: Aeroplanes & Puddles

Australians have a knack for eviscerating the more rarefied pretentions of psychography. While the Europeans drew upon an inherited mythology, the Americans self-mythologised. Meanwhile, the Australians remained reluctant to ascribe

Late Feldman live and on record

Last September Mark Knoop, Aisha Orazbayeva, Bridget Carey and Anton Lukoszevieze played Morton Feldman’s last piece, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello at Cafe Oto. I’ve written before about the playing conditions

Morphogenesis – Immediata

You sometimes get the feeling that musicians these days are frightened of complexity. It seems to go back to the 1990s, when Pärt and Górecki captured the imaginations of a

Jürg Frey: guitarist, alone

Decades of heavily amplified popular music have ingrained the idea of the guitar as a loud, swaggering vehicle of individualism at its most potent – an image that extends from

Manfred Werder: 2015/3

More text scores and more original Wandelweiser, from Manfred Werder. For the past ten years Werder has been composing music in which the score consists of a found text object,

LCMF 2015, first three days real quick

I’ve spent the last three nights at the London Contemporary Music Festival and plan to spend the next four there, too. No time to put any of these thoughts into

Apartment House at 20

The question is not whether or not what Cage is doing is art. I’m convinced that it will be art without even hearing the piece, only because he does it.

Frank Denyer’s Whispers

If only for having the advantage of hindsight, it may be easier to rediscover the past than to discover the present. I got sent some new CDs from Another Timbre,

Non-systems (1)

On Saturday I got to see and hear the Scratch Orchestra play selections from Nature Study Notes. I saw these guys performing Cage’s Song Books a couple of years ago,

After “Vessels”

Last night I got to see Philip Thomas play Bryn Harrison’s Vessels live, at Cafe Oto. As implied last time, I hadn’t re-listened to the piece on CD prior to

Authenticity is Overrated

“Cubism must have developed when the artist considered how much of his sketch must be finished. Finishing involves a stupidity of perception.” – Guy Davenport, Narrative Tone and Form. “The

Late November

A lot of good things came together on the night of 9 March. A bit over five years ago I first heard of Dennis Johnson and his piece November, when

John Cage meets Regieoper (part 2)

Really sloppy notes here, sorry. Part 1 is here. I remember when I first heard Frank Zappa’s songs. The singing felt forced and goofy, with straining falsettos and dopey bass

Song Books Song Books

It must be about dead-on a year ago that I first saw a performance of John Cage’s vast, protean Song Books. That time it was Exaudi at King’s Place. Last

Bird And Person Dyning

An old man is walking slowly through the room. At one end of the room a bird is twittering. Not a real bird; it’s an electronic bird call. The man